October 24, 2010

Wikileaks reveals U.S. failures over hikers

Border Crossing at Panjwin (Iraq) and Bashmaq (Iran)

A classified U.S. Army document released by the Wikileaks organization appears to support earlier claims that Iranian forces crossed the border into Iraq in the Panjwin area to kidnap three American hikers in July 2009. Two of the three hikers are about to tried for espionage in an Iranian court; the third, a woman, was released on humanitarian grounds.

The military document is dated July 31, 2009, and makes reference to the kidnapping of three tourists hiking in the Panjwin area. It also indicated that the three were warned about the dangers of approaching this area of the Iranian border. In response to the reported kidnapping, American forces launched a reconnaissance drone and two F-16 fighters.

Here is the report - my comments follow.

2/1 07:112

Initial report:

WHO: Tourists/Reporters

WHAT: Arrest, Effective, Confirmed (CF)

WHERE: –– ––––– –––––, Sulaymaniyah / Halabjah

WHEN: 311600JUL09

HOW: MND-N G2 reported a kidnapping of 3 Americans who were being taken to the Iranian border. The Americans were hiking near the Iranian border when taken. A fourth tourist did not go hiking with them and reported that a kidnapped female called him saying that they were being surrounded by armed men.

UPDATE 311630JUL09: the following grid is where the kidnapping incident occurred: 38SNE 267 395.

UPDATE 311631JUL09: DIV reported an updated grid of the kidnappers: 38SNE 969 068.

UPDATE 311632JUL09: JPRC (Corps Personnel Recovery) is reporting that the victims were tourists who came to Iraq to go rock climbing.

UPDATE 311633JUL09: Kirkuk PJCC made contact with Suly JCC. Suly JCC will establish checkpoints throughout Suly.

UPDATE 311633JUL09: CF/CF en route to ––––– –– to make link up with " Meckfessel", ––––– –––––– ––––– –––– –– ––– –––– –– –– – –––– –––– –– –––– ––––– –– –– –––––.

UPDATE 311633JUL09: JPRC reports: victims were hiking the "Ahmad al Waha (variant Waaha, Waah, etc.) Rock face outside of Sulaymaniyah. (––––– ––––– –––––)

UPDATE 311645JUL09: AWT and Pathfinder team are en route to Warrior for refuel. Once complete they will remain on standby at FOB Warrior.

UPDATE 311715JUL09: last known location of vehicle new grid ND898 931.

UPDATE 311718 JUL09: Colonel Latif of the 10th Pesh Murga brigade reports Iranians detained 3x AMCIT for being too close to the border

UPDATE 311724 JUL09: CJ3 reports that President Barzani has been notified and has offered support

UPDATE 311728JUL09: Pathfinder landed, AWT are 5 min out

UPDATE 311733JUL09: F16s on station

–––– ––––: ––––– –––––

-–– –– –– ––––– (–––––– –– –/– –––)

-–– ––––– –––––: –– ––––– (–––––– –– –––-–)

-–– –––– – –––– –– – –––– –– –– –––––

-–– –– ––––– –– ––––– –– –– –––– –– –––– ––––––.

-–– –– –– ––––– –– –– –––––

-–– –––––– –––– –– ––––– –– –– –––––

UPDATE 311744JUL09: OSINT: Iranians report picking up three civilians

UPDATE 311750JUL09: link up with Meckfessel confirmed

UPDATE 311804JUL09: MND-N has confirmed that they will C2 the recovery operations.

–––– –––––––: –– –– –– ––––– ––--–––– –––– –– –––– ––––––, – – –– ––––– –– ––––, –– –––– –––– –––––– –– – –––– ––––, –– –––– –––– – ––––– –––– –––– –– –– ––––––

UPDATE 311826JUL09: CJSOTF will pick up Meckfessel and take him to PB Andrea. Pathfinders will return him to Warrior where a C12 will transport him to Baghdad.

UPDATE 311920JUL09: CPT ––––– and SFC ––––– will escort Meckfessel to Baghdad.

–––– –––––––: ––-––– –– –––– –––– –– –– –––– –– –– ––––, –-–– ––––– –––––––

–––– –––– –––––: ––-––– –– –––– –– –– –– –––– –– –– ––––– –– –– –––––

–––– –––––––: ––––– –––– –––– –––– –– –––– –– –– –––––

–––– –––––––: ––-––– –– –– ––––– ––––– –––– –– –– –––––

UPDATE 312014JUL09: C-12 will arrive at 2040

UPDATE 312036 JUL09: C-12 has landed

UPDATE 312040 JUL09: C-12 departed warrior en route to Baghdad

UPDATE 312145 JUL09: Escorts report landing at BIAP.

UPDATE 312330JUL09: Escorts transfer Meckfessel to Embassy personnel.

UPDATE 010015AUG09: Escorts will fly fixed wing at 1100 hrs on 1 AUG09 to FOB Warrior

BDA: 3x AMCIT Detained by Iranians

PAO ASSESSMENT: All queries referred to the US embassy in Baghdad.

IO ASSESSMENT: IQATF will monitor for atmospherics on this SIGACT.

S2 ASSESSMENT: The lack of coordination on the part of these hikers, particularly after being forewarned, indicates an intent to agitate and create publicity regarding international policies on Iran. The leadership in Iran benefits as it focuses the Iranian population on a perceived external threat rather than internal dissension. Kurdish leaders remain concerned about international perceptions regarding security as they seek to increase investment in the KRG. Expect KRG leadership to intervene to return the 3 individuals and the Iranian government to accuse them of being spies. Additionally, KRG leadership may impose additional restrictions on private activities near the Iranian border.




The assessment by the S2, the intelligence section, is prescient. It is exactly how the Iranians reacted.

In the intervening year, the American government has absolutely no foreign policy successes with the Iranians, despite a two-pronged strategy of engagement and economic sanctions. Neither have ameliorated Iran's behavior, either in its nuclear weapons program or its conduct in the community of nations.

While Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her spokesman P.J. "Spinner" Crowley offer platitudes and feckless rhetoric, two young Americans remain in the notorious Evin prison, Iran continues to enrich uranium to higher levels than required for reactor fuel, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps continues to supply arms to Hizballah in Lebanon, Hamas in the Gaza Strip, the Sadrist militias in Iraq and the Taliban in Afghanistan. See my earlier article, The three hikers in Iran - how's that "engagement" working?

It will be interesting to find out why the hikers were in this part of Iraq. If the intelligence assessment is correct, that they were intending "to agitate and create publicity regarding international policies on Iran," I'd like to hear their opinions of Iran now. I tend to not assign that motive to the three.

The three say they were on a trip to see the Ahmad Awa cave; it is well worth a visit. However, it is very close to the Iranian border in an area where Iraq juts far into Iran. I've been to this area. The Iranian border is clearly marked and in most places well-fortified, at some places with deep tank traps. Remember that these two countries fought a bloody eight-year war. Claims that they may have inadvertently strayed across the Iranian border are ludicrous.

The second part of the S2 (intelligence officer) assessment turned out to be exactly right, "...the Iranian government to accuse them of being spies."

Thus far, the Administration has been unable to get two obviously innocent hikers released. Is this the team we want dealing with a nuclear-armed Iran?

Here is a compilation report from Newsy.com on the media coverage of the Wikileaks story: